I was lucky enough to discover Lawrence Yang’s artwork a number of years ago and have delighted in his talent and progression ever since. With a style that is unique and inspiring, Yang unearths the most gorgeous creations using his trademark watercolor wash foundation, which is then followed by the use of ink, gouache, watercolors, and occasionally other mixed media as well.
His backdrops are ethereal and surreal; his creatures are full of charismatic wonder; and his finishing touches always add emotive elements that keep you coming back for more. With workmanship that draws inspiration from traditional Chinese painting, graffiti street art, and pop surrealism, Lawrence cleverly refers to his style as “Pop SurrAsianism.”
Believe it or not, Lawrence’s day job involves work far removed from the art world. As an informational architect his job requires an analytical mindset, but when he gets to his studio and picks up that paint brush, the magic of his imaginative world begins to take shape.
Yang maintains a fantastic blog where you can keep up with his art and stay informed as to upcoming art shows and events featuring his work. In addition, his website suckatlife.com includes a store where all sorts of goodies are offered, including: prints, t-shirts, Gelaskins, and his book, Gathering. My wish list seems to grow longer each time I visit there.
I was seriously thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Lawrence and feature his work in this episode of Inkerviews. I think you will find that his good nature, wit, enthusiasm, and talent is quite inspiring indeed.
Were you always artistic as a child? What did you want to be when you grew up?
Yep, I've been drawing since I was a kid. I was always "that guy" who always had a sketchbook with them. I think I wanted to be a chemical engineer when I grew up...being a mad scientist always appealed to me. Then I took chemistry in school and changed my mind.
Did you go to art school or did you have a different agenda for your career path?
Nope, I went to a state school for computer science, then switched to biology after a year; then switched to industrial design and graduated with that. I was drawing and painting throughout my college years, but the idea of majoring in art never crossed my mind. It was always just something I did on the side for fun.
What brought you to San Francisco? Do you like living in the Bay Area and do you find that it is an inspiring place for your artwork?
My biggest motivation was curiosity. I had spent my entire life in the Midwest and wanted to see what else was out there. So pretty much immediately after I finished school, I packed up and moved out.
I love it here! I've been living in San Francisco for over four years now and it feels more like home every day. It has definitely inspired my artwork as well -- the energy of the city, the proximity of nature preserves, the people, the culture, all have influenced my art since moving here.
You work as an informational architect by day. Is this work creative too or are your paintings and drawings your outlet for your artistic ideas?
Definitely the latter. Information architecture is fun and challenging work, but it's all left brain. Painting at night helps me to even out.
Your style is so unique and beautiful. Depending on the piece, it can be whimsical, soft, bold, organic, abstract, and the list goes on. How does each piece begin? Do you always have an idea of what you want your paintings to become or do they progress as you go?
I'm glad you like it! I never really know how a piece is going to turn out. At best I have a vague impression of a color, thought or emotion that I want to convey. I usually just start with a watercolor wash and just make it up from there.
What would you call your style of artwork?
Ha, I'm really not sure if it fits into a style or school. It's definitely influenced by pop surrealism and traditional Chinese painting though. So somewhere in between there? Pop SurrAsianism?
What are your favorite mediums to work with?
Most of my pieces are done in ink, watercolor and gouache. I've experimented with other media, but I always end up coming back to water-based media.
You have recently participated in many art shows. Can you tell us about your most recent exhibit? Do you have any shows coming up that readers can watch for?
My last show was with Gallery1988 in San Francisco. I was lucky enough to be in a two person show with Leontine Greenberg. It was fun! Tons of people came out to see the work. Art, friends, and booze - what more could you ask for?
As far as shows coming up, I don't think I have anything in the immediate future. Things tend to crop up at the last minute though, and usually I'll announce things on my art blog.
A few years back, your take on the Pepsi design was a hit around the Internet. Did that image come to you as soon as you saw the $1.2 billion dollar logo that Pepsi marketed?
Yeah, it's kind of funny how quickly that little drawing made the rounds on the internet. I think it was right around when they were promoting the new logo by taking over entire BART stations with posters, floor and wall decals. That little crooked logo was everywhere, and all I could see was a fat guy. I went home and doodled the parody that night.
Can you tell us about your book “Gathering” and where it is sold?
Gathering is a mini portfolio book of art I made in 2008. I really need to make a new book! But for now, "Gathering" is sold at blurb.
Where can fans of your artwork keep up with your newest designs? And where can one purchase an original piece or print?
The best place to see what I'm up to is on my art blog. - I try to regularly post finished pieces or works in progress.
If interested in a piece, take a look on suckatlife.com and see if a piece is marked sold or not. If it's not, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for pricing and availability.
If interested in a print, details on available prints are here.
You have recently been creating some fantastic clay sculptures. Is this a new area for you and what can we expect to see in terms of your cool little creatures?
It's a relatively new area for me. I've included some of them in my art shows, but I'm still figuring out what else they could be. Maybe painting them? Or turning them into soft vinyl toys.
Do you do commissioned pieces? If so, what is the best way to go about ordering one?
Unfortunately, because of my work schedule I don't have time to do commissioned pieces.
Do you listen to music while you are painting or drawing? If so, what’s your favorite?
I listen to pretty chill music while I'm painting -- usually a mix of trip-hop like Zero 7 or Tosca.
What are your goals for the coming year?
Hmmmm…more shows in more cities would be great! I've had a few shows in LA and a show in New York, but it'd be great to have a more solid presence in either city.
What one word best describes you?
Cerulean (haha, I have no idea).
What one word best describes your artwork?